January is Stalking Awareness Month

SAN LUIS VALLEY — The Rio Grande County Sheriff’s Department is reminding the community that January is Stalking Awareness Month and will be requesting that Rio Grande County Commissioners sign a proclamation, designating this nationally observed period that focuses on the dangers and reality of stalking.

According to statistics from the Stalking Prevention, Awareness and Resource Center, stalking occurs all over the country. One in 8 employed individuals dealing with a stalker loses time from work and 1 in 7 individuals dealing with a stalker will relocate or move. Stalking often occurs together with domestic violence and includes physical violence. It can also include cases where there is sexual violence, including rape.

In addition, it is stated that 20% of stalkers use weapons as a means to intimidate or threaten their victims and 76% of femicides were found to have some type of stalking by intimate partners a year prior to the end result. These numbers are staggering in relation to domestic violence cases that have been on the rise over the course of 2020 due to families remaining at home because of the pandemic and though these numbers are not focused on local cases, it shows how dangerous stalking can be.

“We all hope that stalking isn’t a common thing. An estimated 25 million people have been stalked in their lifetime in the United States alone. In a one-year period, 6 to 7.5 million people are stalked throughout the U.S. which includes about 1 in 6 women as well as 1 in 17 men who have fallen victim to stalking. So, this isn't just something that you hope never happens to you or your family, but it's probably happening to someone you know. We want to stress that victims aren’t just women; they are male, female, and gender non-conforming individuals,” explained Rio Grande County Sheriff representative and Victim’s Advocate Courtney Arthur. 

The majority of the time the victim knows who the perpetrator is in some capacity, most commonly it's a former or current intimate partner, but that doesn't mean that it can't be an acquaintance. Stalking isn't just an action; it takes a huge mental toll on the victims. Forty-six percent of stalking victims fear not knowing what will happen next. The fear is you never know where they might show up or what they might do. Twenty-nine percent of stalking victims think that it will never stop. Even with the fear and thinking it will never stop less than 40% of victims report stalking. Some don't think what is going on is a big deal, some might not realize that it's stalking, they could be embarrassed that it is happening.

Stalking is serious and dangerous. Intimate partner stalkers, on average, pose the greatest threats to their victims. All stalkers can be dangerous. Intimate partner stalkers are the most likely to threaten and harm their victims. Stalking can include other criminal and violent acts as well. Statistics show 31% of women stalked by an intimate partner were also sexually assaulted and 46% of victims experienced one or more violent incidents by their stalker.

“Fifty-seven percent of stalking victims were stalked during the relationship, so stalking isn’t just something that happens after a relationship ends, it can be during the relationship as well,” explained Arthur.

“Stalking also increases the risk of a homicide, or femicide, meaning the killing of a woman or girl. Seventy-six percent of intimate partner femicide victims have been stalked by their intimate partner. Eighty-nine percent of femicide victims who had been physically assaulted had also been stalked in the 12 months before their murder. Seventy-nine percent of abused femicide victims reported being stalked during the same period that they were abused. Fifty-four percent of femicide victims reported stalking to police before they were killed by their stalkers,” she added.

If you or someone you know is dealing with or may be dealing with a stalking situation, contact the Rio Grande County Sheriff’s Department at 719-657-4000 or any local law enforcement agency to seek help and resources that may alleviate a threat of danger.